Gay rights battle paralleled in Bermuda

A landmark ruling in the Supreme Court of Bermuda giving same-sex couples equal rights on immigration and employment issues has been cited as further evidence that the Cayman Islands needs to modernize its own laws. 

Premier Alden McLaughlin, currently in London along with Bermuda Premier Michael Dunkley and other Overseas Territories leaders, said the Cayman Islands would likely face a similar court defeat if it did not alter its own policies on Immigration. 

The atmosphere in Bermuda, where a church-led protest group has raised a petition in defense of traditional marriage, mirrors the conflict in Cayman, where traditional Christian values have been cited as justification for different treatment of homosexual couples. 

Mr. McLaughlin said, “The ruling from the Bermuda Supreme Court concerning recognition of same-sex unions reinforces my belief that the Cayman Islands must review and make necessary changes to our immigration regulations. 

“If we don’t amend those regulations so as not to discriminate, I have no doubt that we will face a similar judgement by the Grand Court here.” 

He said the necessary changes would be made in the regulations and not the law itself and could be addressed by Cabinet and not in the Legislative Assembly. 

The Cayman Islands is currently facing a “test case” on the issue in the form of an appeal brought by former law professor Leonardo Raznovich against the Immigration Board’s decision not to allow him to be listed as a dependent on his male partner’s work-permit, a request routinely approved for married couples. 

Mr. McLaughlin has indicated that government will seek to deal with that specific issue without introducing wider legislative recognition of same-sex unions at this point. 

James Austin-Smith, chairman of the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission, has previously noted that government needs to make much broader changes to its laws to be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights, which applies to both Bermuda and Cayman. 

Mr. Austin-Smith has indicated that government immediately needs to introduce legislation to recognize same-sex unions and outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 

He said the law had been clarified through a precedent-setting ruling by the European courts earlier this year in a case brought against Italy to determine whether it violated human rights legislation by failing to recognize same-sex unions. 

Bermuda Chief Justice Ian Kawaley cited the same judgment in his ruling on Friday. 

He ruled that aspects of Bermuda’s Immigration and Protection Act were incompatible with the islands’ human rights legislation because they allowed discrimination against same-sex couples. The immediate impact of the ruling will be that same-sex partners of Bermudians will be afforded the same rights to reside and seek employment as spouses of Bermudians. 

Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, told the Bermuda media Friday that the ruling could have wider consequences on legislation relating to bankruptcy, estates, wills, health insurance, pensions and social insurance. 

Mr. Kawaley’s ruling dealt specifically with the aspects of the legislation relating to employment, as that was the complaint brought by the Bermuda Bred Company, a social justice campaign group. 

But he suggested that Bermuda ultimately would be required to accept same-sex partnerships because of the European Court’s ruling in the Italian case. 

He wrote, “Bermuda appears to be under a positive international law duty under Article 8 of the ECHR to create some coherent legal framework for the recognition of same-sex relationships formed by Bermudians.” 

Several experts, including Mr. Austin-Smith, have made the same point in respect to Cayman’s laws. 

Mr. Raznovich said Tuesday he was pleased government is looking to amend the Immigration Law as a matter of urgency. 

He added that the Bermuda ruling gave further weight to the argument for change in Cayman. 

“The Supreme Court of Bermuda’s decision is consistent with, and lends further strong support to, our legal position in the Cayman Islands,” he said. 

“The Supreme Court of Bermuda has acknowledged in its judgment the implications of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the Oliari case [the Italy case] for all British Overseas Territories to which the European Convention on Human Rights has been extended.” 

Premier McLaughlin

Premier McLaughlin
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  1. The argument that we should do something simply because some other country has done it is a weak argument to say the least. What we seem to have in abundance in the Cayman Islands is discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation (any religious affiliation) and at the rate things are going it might one day be illegal to publicly express any religious beliefs. It would be better to have the local homosexuals work along with the homosexual politicians in Europe to force a change to local laws instead of having it appear that the people via their political representatives have willingly accepted deviant homosexual conduct as something that is normal. It should always be clear for the record that what will be a significant contributor to the decline in moral and family values was not put into law as a result of choice but was forced on the people of the Cayman Islands.

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  2. Yes we are being FORCED into something that hasn’t been the normal around here. Bullied,FORCE and manipulate, what a way to get justification for a sexual preference.

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  3. Treating everybody in the same manner is morally correct.Treating people differently because you don’t approve of whom they love is immoral and sick. Only a religious person could consider discrimination to be morally right.
    Human sexuality is innate and natural while religion is artificial; i.e. not real. To use religion to assault and abuse anyone should never be condoned.
    To express religious beliefs is to admit that you are an adult with an imaginary friend. Thus you need help to cope with your mental health issues. Being delusional is nothing to be proud of.
    To have to be forced to do the right thing is nothing to be proud of.

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  4. Well Rod, if we based decisions of the future on what has always been the norm in the past then nothing would ever change would it? Blacks would still be enslaved and/or without basic civil rights in the US and many other parts of the world, but are not because in many cases the people who wanted to maintain the status quo were bullied and forced to give up their norms in the interest of the rights of minorities. All anyone is asking is for people to be treated equally.

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  5. Myles MacLean,you say that ”Only a religious person could consider discrimination to be morally right.” Well since your post is condoning discrimination against religion and religious persons ,and you obviously think you are morally right; in your own words that means you must be one very religious individual. Wow,in your haste to discriminate against religious persons, you have also managed to discriminate against yourself.

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  6. This discussion is being obscured by bringing religion into it. People with religious beliefs have the absolute right to decide on their own actions, but Human Rights laws are not governed by religious beliefs even if some of the rights conferred by the laws are supported (or the opposite!) by a specific religion.
    We are bound to have laws on Human Rights because we choose to be a dependency of the UK, they are bound to ensure all territories under their auspices enact such laws. Its that simple, all people are equal, all have the right to live their lives the way they wish, subject to the rules of their jurisdiction.
    If you have religious beliefs then live your life by them, but it does not give you the right to stop others from living theirs in peace because their beliefs are not your beliefs!

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  7. @ Mack Boland

    Could you be more specific?

    Exactly what moral and family values are you referring to and how will this impact them?

    Bluntly, as an ex-pat I struggle to see anything resembling a moral high ground evident on these islands.

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  8. @ Mack Boland,

    "deviant homosexual conduct"

    "a significant contributor to the decline in moral and family values"

    I suppose it’s all those ”deviant” homosexual couples that are running around shooting people outside bars in West Bay, or creating single parent homes, or abusing children across the islands?

    Perhaps they are the ones engaged in corrupting the demographic election process, or robbing the healthcare / government fuel system blind?

    Perhaps our moral values would be more intact if we respected each other and their freedom to choose how to live their lives.

    I think you may wish to consider some of these things before riding around on your (tethered) high horse.

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